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This is it: The last tea in my Verdant sampler. Having never had a Tieguanyin, I left this one languishing in the box for last. The other styles were familiar; this one was saved as the capstone.

Dry leaves smell like alfalfa and resemble rabbit pellets (either the kind they consume or the kind they produce). And that’s where the strangeness of this tea begins.

Having spent the last year drinking almost nothing but green teas, I expected there to be at least a hint of vegetation in my first cup. It’s almost never that a tea smells that strongly of grass and doesn’t brew up with some kind of a grassy note. But the Tieguanyin? Nothing. The initial 25 second steep yielded a cup of apricot and lime. And while I don’t enjoy apricots at all, that flavor is actually quite satisfying in the context of this tea. Perhaps I’ll go buy some apricots and see if they’re better than I remember.

A second steep at 30 seconds causes the leaves to expand to their fullest, exploding into an indistinguishable mass of greenery. The aroma while pouring off the tea is strong orchid. The flavors shift a little here; the apricot note becomes strong, punchier, briefly disappearing under a layer of heavy cream before re-emerging and mellowing out into lime and toasted graham cracker. (I avoid reading Verdant’s notes before tasting, but as weird as it sounds, it’s quite clear where they came up with “graham”. It’s impossible not to identify.) There’s an initial meatiness to the flavor profile when sipped that I can’t quite put my finger on. We’ll go with the generic “brothy” and “buttery.” Don’t care for that note, no matter how brief? Slurp and bubble. Continuing this tea’s strange complexity, that note disappears entirely when well-aerated, and orchid instead appears out of nowhere.

Unfortunately I ran out of filtered water before I could make a third cup. I’ll definitely be enjoying more of this after a trip to the store.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 30 sec

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It began with tea, earl grey, hot and progressed from there. Curse the French starship captain with the English accent!

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Phoenix, AZ, US

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